About 30,000 people follow @thenannyart on Instagram, and I’m shamelessly one of them. Of the myriad niche art meme accounts out there, this one might have simultaneously the most oddly specific conceit and most oddly satisfying visual evidence of its thesis: Contemporary art looks uncannily like Fran Drescher’s wardrobe from the campy ‘90s sitcom The Nanny.
I caught up with the brains behind this surprisingly genius Instagram account to talk about their well-deserved social media success.
Michael Anthony Farley: First off, who are you!? What’s your “day job”? I assume you work in the arts?
Do you find your tastes as a curator overlap with the aesthetic of Fran?
I’m not sure if my tastes overlap with her aesthetic, but I share her penchant for bold choices. Additionally I like the work of a lot of the artists whose work I’m combing with her outfits.
What inspired you to make this shockingly on-point account?
@thenannyart started a little over a year ago when I randomly came across a still shot from The Nanny that immediately reminded me of the 1988 painting “Betty” by German painter Gerhard Richter.
Do you usually see an outfit and then search for art to match it? Or vice versa?
I’m looking at reruns of the series and images of Fran Fine on the internet (@whatfranwore is a great resource of the looks that stylist Brenda Cooper made for the series) and simultaneously thinking about which artworks the outfits remind me of.
How many hours of The Nanny have you ended up watching to make this much content?
I first watched the series when I was a teenager (it taught me all about Barbara Streisand, Jewishness, and Broadway musicals) and now have been rewatching all the episodes. That makes many hours of the year with a total of 146 episodes of approximately 30 minutes.
Are you surprised by the success of @thenannyart?
I’m surprised by the success of the account and of the attention it is getting. I’m happy that both people in and outside the art world seem to love @thenannyart. Curators, artists, gallerists and collectors love how iconic pieces of the most well-known artists that are esteemed high culture are combined with outfits from a campy ’90s series.
I think your mashups speak a lot to how ahead of its time The Nanny was… Like actually all of Fran Drescher’s wardrobe was amazing and is totally something “A-Listers” would wear today…
Her outfits are an archive of ‘90s fashion opulence wearing brands like Moschino, Todd Oldham, Isaac Mizrahi, Anna Sui, and Marc Jacobs. That’s also an important part of the appeal of the account as it makes pop culture from the ’90s resonate. Instagram can be a medium of nostalgia and make us reminisce about the larger-than-life TV characters from our youth.
I heard that the costume designer from the show is a huge fan of the account. Have you had much interaction with her? Has she ever suggested a mash-up?
Brenda Cooper, who won an Emmy for her work on the series, is indeed a huge fan of the account. She has frequently been commenting on the combinations I post.
Has Fran Drescher herself ever reached out to you?
Fran Drescher has reached out and is a fan of the account. A few months ago we spoke for an hour over the phone for Interview Magazine and had a wonderful conversation. She is an avid art collector herself and we spoke about the place of art in her life, from her childhood reading about Vincent Van Gogh to her recent bittersweet sale of an Alex Katz painting.
I feel like there’s an interesting read on how the aesthetics of contemporary art (which in some ways have remained remarkably not-very-changed since before The Nanny even went into production) have converged with the way mass media presented class displacement in the 1990s… Like both Fran Fine and the archetypal artist are somewhat class aspirational, their identities necessarily exoticized, or made to signal extravagance, to become consumed by the elite. Fran’s labor is sold to the rich, but ultimately it is her very self that Mr. Sheffield (the essence of WASP privilege) acquires. Thoughts?
I haven’t looked at the series from that point of view. For me, Fran is a metaphor for the arts. She is the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan.
Are there any other art meme accounts you really like and recommend we follow?
Brown’s staged photographs reflect a lineage of Black beauty culture and rituals that are shared throughout the diaspora.
Black pop art iconography, like Jet magazine’s coverage and advertisements reflecting the 1960s Black is Beautiful movement and the Natural Hair Movement of the 2000s, are all influential to Brown’s photographs.